Campaigners fighting to reopen a cherished Elgin landmark have signed up a “key tenant” to move into the building.
Grant Lodge has been abandoned since 2003, when a fire left the former library unusable.
Repairs for the 18th century building have been estimated at £3million. But now there is renewed hope the mansion could soon be open again and in the hands of the community.
The Grant Lodge Trust has submitted proposals to Moray Council for ownership of the former Victorian home to be transferred.
Members are drawing up a business plan for the building in order to take it over and ensure its long-term future.
A vital part of that scheme is proving that there are groups willing to occupy it once it is refurbished.
And charity support organisation tsiMoray has expressed an interest in taking on a room at the property if it is reopened.
The group’s chief executive officer, Fabio Villani, said: “We are extremely keen for Grant Lodge to return to use.
“We think it would be a fantastic setting for our civic engagement centre, a spot for people to learn about how they can get involved with the Moray community.
“We want to play whatever part we can in making that happen.”
Mr Villani toured the building last month, and described it as being in “surprisingly good” condition inside.
Other organisations, including eco-friendly charity Earthtime for All, have also expressed interest in using the venue.
Friends of Grant Lodge chairwoman, Caroline Webster, said: “After such a long time, it’s great to have the wheels moving.”
Grant Lodge was donated to the people of Elgin by George Cooper in 1903, originally for use as a library.
Included in the handover was a stipulation the building would only be used for that purpose or as a heritage centre.
Any change to Mr Cooper’s vision for the lodge would require an application to the Court of Session to alter the “deed of gift”.
Elgin City South councillor, Graham Leadbitter, yesterday backed calls for the council to accept responsibility for the legal bill for transferring ownership to the trust.
He added: “I will continue to do all I can in the council to advance the issues around Grant Lodge.”
The trust’s annual meeting will take place on Wednesday, June 21, at Elgin Museum.
INSIDE GRANT LODGE
Residents eager to get their first look at the interior of Grant Lodge for more than a decade could gain access to the historic building before the end of the year.
The Grant Lodge Trust has asked for permission from Moray Council to have the landmark included as part of the annual “doors open day”.
The event allows members of the public to tour buildings which are usually closed to them the rest of the year.
If the plan is approved, locals would get to see inside the rooms that meet health and safety requirements in September.
Campaigners are eager to cast off the hoardings, which have resulted in boarded-up windows in order to let natural light into the 18th-century rooms.
Friends of Grant Lodge chairwoman Caroline Webster said: “We just want the community to come inside and have a look. It’s not actually as badly damaged as some people may think.
“The structural damage caused by the fire was repaired, but some of the fabric hasn’t been. The main cost of refurbishment would be external repairs.
“We’ve asked for permission from the council. We will have to look at health and safety, but the hope is to have some of the rooms on the ground floor opened up for people to have a look around.”